All of the young people mentioned in this story, save Natalie, are considered by the church hierarchy to be Potential Trouble Sources.
March 1, 2006 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Scientology has a plausible explanation for everything they do -- that's the genius of it," says Sara. "But make no mistakes: Scientology is brainwashing." [Previous MeFi Scientology Threads]
posted by nuclear_soup (105 comments total)

 
I'm from Clearwater- and it's just as creepy as the writer describes. ::shudders::
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:09 PM on March 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Scientology has a plausible explanation for everything they do

Except for what happened to Lisa McPherson, it seems.
posted by Gator at 1:17 PM on March 1, 2006


It's not a religion. It's a criminal organization pretending to be a religion.

These people broke into IRS offices to try to modify tax records.

Not nice people.
posted by Malor at 1:37 PM on March 1, 2006


I wonder if they had a plausible explaination for chasing me 5 blocks around Clearwater in an SUV?
posted by contessa at 1:50 PM on March 1, 2006


This article goes a long way toward making up for Rolling Stone's too-numerous-to-catalogue-here sins over the past 35 years or so. Too bad about Jenna Elfman being one of them.
posted by Faze at 1:50 PM on March 1, 2006


Too bad about Jenna Elfman being a Sci-tol, I mean.
posted by Faze at 1:51 PM on March 1, 2006


I wonder if they had a plausible explaination for chasing me 5 blocks around Clearwater in an SUV?

Were they simultaneously pelting you with South African diamonds?
posted by Gator at 1:52 PM on March 1, 2006


This article goes a long way toward making up for Rolling Stone's too-numerous-to-catalogue-here sins over the past 35 years or so.

I agree. I was pleasently suprsied to find something worth reading in the latest issue.
posted by nuclear_soup at 1:54 PM on March 1, 2006


When asked about money, church officials can become defensive. "Do you want to know the real answer? If we could offer everything for free, we would do it," says Rinder. Another official offers, "We don't have 2,000 years of acquired wealth to fall back on." But Scientology isn't alone, church leaders insist. Mormons, for example, expect members to tithe a tenth of their earnings.

Tithing is common in most if not all protestant denominations, but rarely is a church going to keep its blessings from someone who can't or doesn't pay.
posted by grabbingsand at 1:56 PM on March 1, 2006


but rarely is a church going to keep its blessings from someone who can't or doesn't pay.
posted by grabbingsand at 4:56 PM EST on March 1 [!]


Yeah, in fact churches generally have funds for giving church donation money to the poor. Somehow I can't picture Scientologists giving their poorer members free clothes or food.
posted by unreason at 2:05 PM on March 1, 2006


Somehow I can't picture Scientologists giving their poorer members free clothes or food.

I can't picture Scientologists NEEDING free clothes or food. Not if they have the kind of money it apparently takes to be a member.
posted by nuclear_soup at 2:08 PM on March 1, 2006


It's a criminal organization pretending to be a religion.

Right, because 'real' religions never do anything illegal or immortal. Scientology is a valid religion, as valid as any other. Don't knock their actions unless you're willing to explain away the illegal and immoral acts committed by the large established religions recently and through history.
posted by skallas at 2:13 PM on March 1, 2006


Back in 1991 or thereabout the Teen Canteen in Los Angeles received a substrantial donation from the Scientologists -- clothes, I think. Next thing you know, the Church of Scinetology os claiming that the Teen Canteen is one of their charities. I remember it beeing quite a mess, because the Teen Canteen was afraid kids wouldn't go to them for services, thinking that the organization was a Scientology front group.

But, yeah, they give charity. Or at least did so 15 years ago.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:13 PM on March 1, 2006


skallas: only if one lumps every single, say, Christian or Islamic sect in together. Which would be stupid. For instance, even if they themselves would disagree, the Roman Catholic church does not represent all Christians, and never has.

In contrast, Scientology is a monolithic organization, there are no real sects or factions.

(barring freezoners, who are not really relevant here.)
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:24 PM on March 1, 2006


“It is impossible to go anywhere in downtown Clearwater without being watched by security cameras.”

And this is going to be different from the rest of the U.S. how?

I’m with Bartchy. I don’t see how one set of religious bullshit differs from another, but I’m with Natalie as well - if the method itself is helping you life your life better, happier, what have you - so be it.
(Of course I’m with Burroughs in opposition to the suppression of independant thought)

But again - this differs from other religeons how? The Xenu thing? ‘Cause that seems just as plausible as a guy walking on water, returning from the dead or parting the Red Sea.

I’ll grant one metaphor is a bit closer to certain internal truths I’ve discovered, but One Flew Over the CooCoo’s nest was great for that too.
People tried to latch on to Kesey, he told them to fuck off. He didn’t set up shop and start taking their money.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:25 PM on March 1, 2006


All religon is false, skallas; the question is whether it's all fraudulent. I have no sense that the leaders of Scientology believe any of the crap they tell initiates, and that what makes it a scam.
posted by nicwolff at 2:28 PM on March 1, 2006


sonofsamiam, so this a problem of sects? Scientology is still a young religion, why not give it time.

Also, what would be even more "stupid" is to cherry pick one sect and point it out as a representative of all religion, thus asserting that religions have done no wrong or a have done less wrong, thus concluding scientology is no religion.

Ignoring Xtianity and Islam how about mass human sacrifices in Mesoamerica? Or female circumcision in Africa? Or the worldwide murdering of witches and occult practicers that still goes on today? Tax fraud and financial intimidation doesnt really stack up to this eh?

Err, I thought westerners were about the freedom to worship. Why isn't Scientology a religion? Does it actions hit too close to home? Does its lack of monotheism intimidate people? Does its appeal to the wealthier and well-connected scare ordinary people like the occult fads of the 20s? Or is the western ideal of freedom of worship just mean "freedom for the established to worship" and casting doubt on the validity of other systems of worship?

I'm certainly no fan of the CoS, but the hypocrisy and double standards of a lot of their criticisms is pretty obvious and shows people unwilling to look in the mirror.
posted by skallas at 2:34 PM on March 1, 2006


>I have no sense that the leaders of Scientology believe any of the crap they tell initiates

So, you're psychic? How do you honestly know the how much they believe? On the flip-side how many bishops and priests are hardcore believers or believers at all?
posted by skallas at 2:35 PM on March 1, 2006


sonofsamiam : "For instance, even if they themselves would disagree, the Roman Catholic church does not represent all Christians, and never has."

They don't, but to say they've never represented all Christians is going a bit too far - unless "never" goes back only five hundred years or so. Except for small fringe ("heretic") groups, the Roman Catholic Church was the sole Christian Church on Earth for the first 1500 years after Christ.

Being really monolithic shouldn't be a measure to decide if they are or are not a religion, specially because they are so young - 50 years is nothing, religionwise. The Bible as we use it today have not yet been completed 50 years after Christ died.
posted by nkyad at 2:35 PM on March 1, 2006


I don't know if this is exactly a zero-sum game, skallas. Condemning Scientology (in a thread about Scientology) doesn't mean you condone or ignore all those other reprehensible things that people do in the name of other religions (as opposed to the things they believe, which certainly falls under freedom of worship).
posted by Gator at 2:38 PM on March 1, 2006


skallas: Just wondering, did you read the article?
posted by billysumday at 2:39 PM on March 1, 2006


They don't, but to say they've never represented all Christians is going a bit too far - unless "never" goes back only five hundred years or so. Except for small fringe ("heretic") groups, the Roman Catholic Church was the sole Christian Church on Earth for the first 1500 years after Christ.

Incorrect
posted by empath at 2:39 PM on March 1, 2006


I think Scientology would go away pretty quickly if we took copyright privileges away from religions. You don't want to pay taxes? You don't get to copyright your holy texts. They should be open to scrutiny. Let's see how long they last once Johnny Average finds out about Xenu and friends.
posted by toothgnip at 2:42 PM on March 1, 2006


nykad:

I didn't mean that monolithy is the discriminator for religions. I mean that monlithy is the discriminator for whether or not you can say Scientology is responsible for these particular crimes. It is clear that the whole of Islam is not responsible for 9-11, no? (bigots need not reply, we already know what you think.)

The RC's stance is that Paul was the first pope, who instituted the church, what they and some other Christians call "apostolic succession." That is their opinion, which all Christians might not agree with. Things were very wild back then, and "Christianity" as we know it didn't get nailed down for hundreds of years. Then, in the 11th century, you have the Great Schism, which was the origin of the Orthodox or Eastern churches.

So you have at most about a 500-year window of real RC hegemony. And not even then, because Coptic Christianity had already got going in Egypt about 450.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:46 PM on March 1, 2006


empath : "Incorrect"

Granted, I really forgot about the orthodox Church - but then again it does not really hurt the point I was making - substitute "1500" for "1000" and we're on track again.
posted by nkyad at 2:46 PM on March 1, 2006


Skallas, et al: Christianity can be bad. Islam can be bad. All religions can be bad. Scientology is about a million times worse. No one benefits from Scientology except a handful of upper-echelon memebers; it does no one else good through works or charity or through anything else. It is without a doubt the most evil cult operating in America today.

If my (hypothetical) kid came home and said he was going to become a Christian, I'd be disappointed, but mind my own business. If he came home and said he was going to becomse a Scientologist, I would probably take him somewhere and unbrainwash him by any means necessary.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:50 PM on March 1, 2006


skallas, go get yourself educated. You appear to have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Start with A Piece of Blue Sky: it's an insider's story of what goes on.

Scientology has a couple of goals. One of them is to infiltrate and control your government. They proved their abilities in this regard by gaining significant access to the IRS, so much so that they were close to achieving their goal of stopping a tax fraud investigation into the organization.

In a word, Scientology is evil.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:54 PM on March 1, 2006


I think one could make the argument the Roman Catholic Church as such didn't exist until the Schism. And it certainly didn't become the monolithic, centralized entity it is today until much later, during the counter-reformation.
posted by empath at 2:55 PM on March 1, 2006


The RC's stance is that Paul was the first pope

Peter.

posted by Gator at 2:55 PM on March 1, 2006


gator: Were they simultaneously pelting you with South African diamonds?

Don't I wish!
posted by contessa at 2:55 PM on March 1, 2006


Scientology as an institution takes no formal position on issues like gay marriage, but homosexuality, sexual promiscuity or any other form of "perversion" ranks low on Scientology's "tone scale," a register of human behavior Hubbard described in his 1951 book Science of Survival: Prediction of Human Behavior.

This book, according to Mike Rinder, is perhaps the most important Scientology text after Dianetics. In it, Hubbard denounced virtually every sexual practice that doesn't directly relate to marriage and children. "Such people should be taken from the society as rapidly as possible . . . for here is the level of the contagion of immortality and the destruction of ethics," he wrote of homosexuals. "No social order will survive which does not remove these people from its midst."


I would love to see someone ask Tom Cruise about this on live televsion.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:55 PM on March 1, 2006


Peter.

Dammit.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:58 PM on March 1, 2006


Why isn't Scientology a religion? - skallas

Well, it IS a "religion" in the strict legal sense, at least in the U.S. (that was the outcome of the long-running legal fight with the government over its tax exempt status).

A better term for Scientology is "cult" - and if you ignore its sinister aspects, it is a truly fucking ridiculous one.

Its foundations are the cheesiest, dumbest sort of space opera science fiction crap that even someone of just-average intelligence (like me) would normally get bored with at age 11 or so.
posted by JeffL at 3:02 PM on March 1, 2006


I think it's worth pointing out that the Scientology most celeberities get involved in has little to do with the side of it that normal members see.

From Operation Clambake.

Mind you, they still hear at some point that we're descended from clams super-evolved by aliens and that diseases are the souls of dead evil aliens in our bodies. Makes you wonder how they can still profess this weirdness.

My theory is that all these celebrities have had access to pharmaceutical grade recreational drugs in mixtures and quantities that the average person will never see, therefore they've permanently warped their minds, the lucky bastards.

..I mean, the poor souls.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:06 PM on March 1, 2006


It makes me sad on a daily basis to know that Beck is a scientologist... he's still one of my favorite artists.
posted by rainman84 at 3:07 PM on March 1, 2006


A better term for Scientology is "cult"

Actually, a better term for Scientology is "Pyramid Scheme", since it's just a mess of post-EST crap with some bizzare lunatic belief system cobbled together in order to extract cash from it's lower members.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:08 PM on March 1, 2006


It hasnt always been a church, skallas. So methinks they chose to be designated a religion for other than spiritual reasons. Mostly for tax dodges, MLMing or whatever it is they do.

The acquisition of wealth to the organisation - as a religious principle - is what distinguishes the "CoS" form every other church. It's a scam.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:08 PM on March 1, 2006


How many atheists can you fit on the head of a pin?
posted by dhartung at 3:13 PM on March 1, 2006


I do wish that the journalist who wrote this story had gone a little further into auditing. She had the chance, Rolling Stone expense account and everything! It's a little like reading a lengthy "exposé" of Zen Buddhism written by someone who declined to meditate once they arrived at the monastery (which, of course, happened many times when people wrote about Zen).

I say that as someone who is fully aware of the horrible history of Scientology (dig up the sad story of Quentin Hubbard sometime). But as a journalist myself, I'm just sayin'. I would have loved a detailed subjective description of the experience that is, after all, an experience these people are giving their lives to have. It's a fine article as an intro to the subject, but I can see most Scientologists -- and people who have done some digging themselves -- dismissing it as the usual mélange of SP rumors and widely known data.
posted by digaman at 3:18 PM on March 1, 2006


I thought CoS was harmless celebrity nuttery too until I did some reading. Fucking evil incarnate. And L Ron was a twisted sociopath.


"The RC's stance is that Paul was the first pope, who instituted the church" -- you mean Peter.
posted by vronsky at 3:19 PM on March 1, 2006


Her grandmother is what's called an "Operating Thetan," or "OT." So is Tom Cruise, who is near the top of Scientology's Bridge, at a level known as OT VII. OTs are Scientology's elite -- enlightened beings who are said to have total "control" over themselves and their environment. OTs can allegedly move inanimate objects with their minds, leave their bodies at will and telepathically communicate with, and control the behavior of, both animals and human beings.

Wait a minute....

So supposedly, Tom Cruise can manipulate matter, and people, using only the power of his mind?!

And here I thought my opinion of Scientology couldn't get any lower. If he's so amazingly enligtened, then why does he have to sue people to smithereens for speaking ill of him?
posted by JHarris at 3:27 PM on March 1, 2006


You fool. Maybe Tom is listening.
posted by digaman at 3:34 PM on March 1, 2006


>Scientology is about a million times worse.

If you say so, but to me a lot of this thread reads of "What is Judiasm" from a Saudi newspaper.

First is the usual "Its ridiculous sci-fi." Umm, as opposed to the verfiable and rational religions of the world?

Second is the "they do bad things." Fine, but they're still a religion and no religion is free from 'bad things.' If the moral relativist course if for you, then please, follow it, but attacking CoS in this manner is flawed and using this as a springboard to revoke their non-profit status is ignorant. I like how the article points out how CoS is non-profit. Because the Church down the road must pay taxes right?

Third is the "its a scam!!!" Really? I've met devout scientologists. If you want to claim that its all a scam then it a fairly outrageous claim. Like any religion the higher ups tend not to be as zealous as those on the ground. I dont remember seeing any priests come visit the Fullerton Mary but lots of undereducated latinos sure do.

Fourth is the usual bigoted "I dont believe so-and-so artist is a Scientologist." 40 years ago you might have heard, "Wow, I don't believe Little Richard is a negro. He's so talented!" Pathetic really.

I tend to think the long view of the controversy of CoS is that any starting religion will have to be extra zealous during its formative period. After hitting a critical mass of more than a few million of people and the blessing of the state then the zealousness becomes the ordinary status quo. Money and influence arent a big concern when you have 20 million people dropping in enough spare change on sunday to keep the ship afloat. You probably have a healthy surplus to get involved in many charitable endevours, which of course are part of the evangelical plan. Someone eventually gets pissed off and you have another Luther, there's a splinter group, etc. There's tons of you and then some new upstart religion comes by and you engage in the same flawed criticisms as above.
posted by skallas at 3:37 PM on March 1, 2006


Fucking apologist.
posted by The Monkey at 3:46 PM on March 1, 2006


First is the usual "Its ridiculous sci-fi." Umm, as opposed to the verfiable and rational religions of the world?

No, they're ridiculous fantasy. Often shelved together at Barnes & Noble though. Anyway, Scientology is ridiculous sci-fi.
posted by nicwolff at 3:48 PM on March 1, 2006


I do wish that the journalist who wrote this story had gone a little further into auditing.

I was thinking the same thing the entire time. I don't understand why she went so far and missed out on reporting on the most hard-to-come-by details. For that matter, why hasn't any journalist done that before? Or have I just missed it?
posted by nuclear_soup at 3:52 PM on March 1, 2006


Actually, like I wrote above I don't like the CoS and think they're terrible, but the religious critics are sitting from a hypocrtical position of enjoying the questionable actions of their own founders and early period. That past is now water under the bridge, but the CoS doing similar things is truly an outrage and doesn't at all make the religious person question their own organization.

CoS is religion is a nutshell. People looking for meaning, those ready to give them meaning, zealousness, fraud, hate, superstition, etc.

The narrative here is that CoS is "evil." End of story. Nothing to see here.

The narrative that we don't go into is that CoS is just a religion and shows us the religious mindset from the lowly member to the well-off administrator. It shows us the transparent exploitation and hard-arm tactics that are actually common in history, not some abberation. It shows us how the status quo reacts to a new religion. Mind you, Christians were once thrown to lions. Not much after Christian inquisitors were throwing others into the lions or the flames.

With reactions like "fucking apologist" and "get yourself educated" I think its pretty safe to say that bringing up this issue is very politcally incorrect and may remain that way for quite some time. In the meantime perhaps I should just join the witch burning and ignore the larger issue like everyone else.
posted by skallas at 3:54 PM on March 1, 2006


Second is the "they do bad things." Fine, but they're still a religion and no religion is free from 'bad things.'

But Christianity's bad things, by and large, are in the past, and viewed as regretable even by the heads of the church. Scientology is doing them now, unapologetically.

If in the future they turn away from and apologize for their awfulness, then they will be better. But they haven't done it yet, and it would still not excuse their actions today: is not the whole meaning of an apology an expression of remorse and of the wish that a thing one has done had not happened?
posted by JHarris at 3:57 PM on March 1, 2006


skallas:

Are you putting us on, or are you just dense?
posted by billysumday at 3:58 PM on March 1, 2006


CoS does give to charities, even weirdly so. My library at HBS once received not one, but two boxes of Scientology material ranging from Dianetics to Battlefield Earth to some random self-help guides. While I conceed that many students working their way through b-school are in need of some ethical or moral steering, I couldn't help but feel as if they were trying to recruit the next generation of CoS management.

More likely, though, they were just shipping off some of the stock they'd piled up in their endless "publish books then buy them back to make it a Best Seller" quest.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:58 PM on March 1, 2006


Today, every church or Scientology organization has an office reserved for Hubbard. Usually found on the church's ground floor, it is carefully maintained with books, desk, chair, pens, notepads, desk ornaments and other accouterments, as if the Founder might walk in at any moment.

And that was kinda sweet. Weird in a "don't sit next to me on the subway" manner, but sweet.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:59 PM on March 1, 2006


Fourth is the usual bigoted "I dont believe so-and-so artist is a Scientologist." 40 years ago you might have heard, "Wow, I don't believe Little Richard is a negro. He's so talented!" Pathetic really.

You have to know there is a difference between that and what people have said in this thread
posted by nuclear_soup at 4:00 PM on March 1, 2006


Nah, Skallas -- the CoS is worse than that. All that sec checking and declaring of SPs and disconnecting and Fair Gaming -- what's that all about, other than terrorizing people into shutting the fuck up? Is it worse than the Spanish Inquisition? No. Is it worse than radical Islamists cutting people's heads off? No. But if you're going to invent a new religion, it doesn't seem very promising if your church is doing stuff as bad as the old religions within a generation of the founder's death.
posted by digaman at 4:01 PM on March 1, 2006


Christianity's bad things, by and large, are in the past, and viewed as regretable even by the heads of the church. Scientology is doing them now, unapologetically.

Uhm, no. They're not in the past. Ask... oh, say, a gay person.
posted by digaman at 4:03 PM on March 1, 2006


Uhm, no. They're not in the past. Ask... oh, say, a gay person.

Ah, but "the church" is different from the hordes of individual, tiny churches. Christianity is no longer any one organization -- another important difference between it and Scientology. Further, the Cathloics at least aren't still drawing and quartering people they disagree with. And they don't sue people for exercising free speech, nor do they attempt to turn the teaching of what they consider to be truth into some kind of service industry. (Unless one wanted to say something interesting and provocative about the nature of the clergy -- but I'll wait until someone actually tries to make that point before I attempt to respond to it.)
posted by JHarris at 4:12 PM on March 1, 2006


Skallas, at least in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, if someone says "what's this religion all about," they'll say "read this book."

In Scientology, they say "read this piece of paper. It costs two hundred dollars."

Oh, and you're allowed to leave Christianity without being starved to death.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:15 PM on March 1, 2006


>Christianity is no longer any one organization

That's just a cop out. Its like the "sect" argument above. Chritsian culture and those who maintain it, those who preach, and its values are real and have negative social effects. Claiming that its a culmination of sects thus responsiblity for the actions of its members is decentralized if not non-existant is being highly disengenious.

This is the opposite of the "I was just folliwng orders" defense. Instead its "Someone gave the orders I was following, but I wasnt sure who. There were a lot of people saying the same things."

From my readings, many CoS offices have some degree of autonomy. The Chicago group and the Salt Lake City group don't all call Hollywood for every little thing. The group that locks teenagers into rooms and forces them to call their relatives to cash for more classes may be seen as questionable by another group. The mastermind monolithic organization is true to a certain extent but not enough to equate on the level of, say, an all powerful dictator giving out orders.
posted by skallas at 4:19 PM on March 1, 2006


>"what's this religion all about,"

So the main criticism is now secrecy and copyright? Freedom of religion allows for secrecy. I don't see the fault here. If I wanted to start an occult group I should have every right to keep my teachings as secret as possible. That's what the word occult means. I should never be forced to, by the government, to reveal all my teachings because some internet busybodies and concerned family groups demanded it.
posted by skallas at 4:23 PM on March 1, 2006


I'll ask again: did you read the article?
posted by billysumday at 4:29 PM on March 1, 2006


That's just a cop out. Its like the "sect" argument above. Chritsian culture and those who maintain it, those who preach, and its values are real and have negative social effects.

I'm not disputing that Christian values may have negative effects. That argument could go either way, and if I chose to argue that it doesn't, there's a good chance I'd lose.

But I am saying that Christian churches take no intrinsically evil direct actions as a consequence of their being Christian. Some churches, sure, are harmful, but many are not. Scientology, on the other hand, perhaps solely as a consequence of its monolithic nature but I doubt it, does cause direct harm due to the actions it takes.

Claiming that its a culmination of sects thus responsiblity for the actions of its members is decentralized if not non-existant is being highly disengenious.

(eyes watering from reading that) Um, if I understand that right... do you prosecute a company because one of its employees turns out to be an axe-murderer?
posted by JHarris at 4:31 PM on March 1, 2006


You don't want to pay taxes? You don't get to copyright your holy texts.

Oooh! Nice one! That idea should be sent to whatever PowersThatBe that would do such a thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:10 PM on March 1, 2006


The article was an interesting read, and I, too wondered why the reporter didn't take the opportunity to spend $4k of RS's money and explore the auditing process. As a reader/voyeur, I was intrigued; seems like a wasted opportunity.

In reading the above discussion, I flashed back to reading John Krakaeur's excellent book on the origins of the Mormon faith, Under the Banner of Heaven. For all of their regimented control and thought monitoring, at least the CoS, unlike the Mormon Church, hasn't massacred anybody. The CoS may have been invented from whole cloth as a money making machine, but in the religion game, there's nothing new under the sun. Americans have a discovered/invented/"fronted" some interesting religions in the past 150 or so years. The CoS is mighty strange -- and that's a HUGE understatement -- but then, almost all religions are mighty strange. I don't want to minimize the probable illegal and immoral activities in which the CoS is alleged to have engaged, but in the sweepstakes for nuttiest religion, they are only a little above average.

Case in point: I am a secular Jew; when I was a teenager (late '70's) my parents went through a phase when they became very involved in the Chabad/Lubavitch movement -- "getting in touch with their/our roots". I thought they were nuts! These were two highly rational people who were enchanted by a quasi-cult-like movement with a mystical, charismatic leader, and as a result were willing to engage in a number of strange rituals, such as "purifying" our oven with a blowtorch(!) and dipping all of our pots, pans, and eating utensils in the San Francisco Bay to, ahem, "cleanse" them as preparation for making the home kosher. (Happily, everything went into the dishwasher afterwards...but still...) Anyway, my point is, most religions, even ancient ones, have some weird-ass shit up their sleeves and skeletons in their closets. It's what sells!
posted by mosk at 5:20 PM on March 1, 2006


skallas, you're acting like bevets. Just because other religions have done bad things does not mean that Scientology is in any way defensible or not a criminal gang.

You're an atheist, and dislike every religion. We know. We get it. We get it because you've told us this time and again. Can you please stop with the derail about how every other religion is just as bad now? This wasn't a post about every other religion, at least not until you made it one.

Don't knock their actions unless you're willing to explain away the illegal and immoral acts committed by the large established religions recently and through history.

That's asinine. I'm free to note their criminal and immoral acts without having to reference anyone else's activities. Their actions are exactly as reprehensible as they are, completely irrespective of any other group or organization's actions at any point in history.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:33 PM on March 1, 2006


Skallas' comments are invaluable to this discussion, but at the same time you (Skallas) should remember that the type of criticism people level today at Scientology are often similar to the types of criticism which eventually cracked the mainstream religions deathgrip on society or at least their followers.

So, while your point is well taken (by me at least), you should also take the point that, regardless of what other religions deserve or deserved criticism, critics of Scientology have legitimate points, regardless of how applicable those points are or were to other religions.

In my opinion, the main difference between Scientology and other religions is the era in which they were founded. There is so much wealth and power in the world today, it's so distributed, and communication and dissemination is so cheap that why would you bother to make a free religion if your goal was 'helping people' and gaining power?

Most people today have grown up with long-entrenched belief systems which already provide a basis for morality, daily life, and answers to basic questions-- meaning the need for a new religion is to provide meaning beyond what's already out there. Furthermore there are already lots of free religions which have a lot to offer to compete with. Scientology wants to gain power and they have realized that 'open source' isn't going to work-- people want concrete results, and in today's world that is rarely found for free. In our capitalist society, someone who doesn't charge for religion looks like a street-corner preacher.
posted by chaz at 5:40 PM on March 1, 2006


I noticed something a while back. I've been doing some recreational reading of the major texts from some major religions.

I can get a free translation of the Qu'ran, just for asking (and did so, it arrived in the mail a couple weeks ago).

I can get a free Bible, just for asking (from a number of places, either in person or via the mail).

The Torah is available in many formats, for free.

I got a free copy of the Book of Mormon, just for requesting it via the LDS web site (arrived in the mail last week).

I want a copy of Dianetics, I have to either buy it at a bookstore, or go down to the CoS HQ down on Westheimer here in Houston and pay for one there (and be hounded to take a "personality test" and give them my mailing address, etc).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, Scientology is the only "organized religion" that does not give its "reference materials" out free of charge.
posted by mrbill at 5:40 PM on March 1, 2006


skallas writes "With reactions like 'fucking apologist' and 'get yourself educated' I think its pretty safe to say that bringing up this issue is very politcally incorrect and may remain that way for quite some time. In the meantime perhaps I should just join the witch burning and ignore the larger issue like everyone else."

There are quantifiable differences between a religion and a cult. Cults are mostly personality-driven, started by charismatic con-artists, and focus on the preservation of the cult and its goals above all else. Cults isolate their members from society and discourage critical thinking or questioning. Cults often require that their members give large sums of money or go into debt and pay it off (which almost never happens, creating indentured servants). Cults often disallow or severely discourage leaving. In the case of Scientology, they claim now that people can leave but they aren't allowed to criticize the church if they do (they aren't if they stay, either). Cults will cut off members' contact from family members if the cult is questioned by them. Cults often operate at the edges or beyond the law, claiming persecution when caught. All of these have been the case for Scientology.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:45 PM on March 1, 2006


chaz writes "Scientology wants to gain power and they have realized that 'open source' isn't going to work-- people want concrete results, and in today's world that is rarely found for free. In our capitalist society, someone who doesn't charge for religion looks like a street-corner preacher."

That has nothing to do with it. They prey on gullible and vulnerable people and put them in a legal and ethical quagmire, so they're forced to stay. Most just cope with it, because it's the path of least resistance, and for many of them it probably does provide purpose, structure and hope. Whether any of that is well-grounded is another matter. The money is to enrich the leadership, and that's about it. They charge as much as they do because they can get away with it, due to their target audience and because it puts people in debt to them. It's a pyramid scheme, which has already been said, but it's true.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:52 PM on March 1, 2006


That's it! I'm suing skallas in England!
posted by raaka at 5:54 PM on March 1, 2006


Christianity is no longer any one organization -- another important difference between it and Scientology.

Not quite true.
posted by Tlogmer at 5:54 PM on March 1, 2006


Have you ever read 'What is Judaism' in a Saudi Newspaper, skallas? If so, did it literally paint Judaism as an evil cult?

disclaimer: I don't know what the arabic language newspapers in KSA are like; only the english ones.
posted by Firas at 6:30 PM on March 1, 2006


krinklyfig I didn't say anything about moral, etc. I'm just postulating that one reason why Scientology is for profit is that that is what works in today's world.
posted by chaz at 6:42 PM on March 1, 2006


chaz writes "krinklyfig I didn't say anything about moral, etc. I'm just postulating that one reason why Scientology is for profit is that that is what works in today's world."

Is that true? How does that work out when you compare world religions and their popularity? Does your hypothesis bear out, or is it conjecture?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:43 PM on March 1, 2006


I do wish that the journalist who wrote this story had gone a little further into auditing.

Not possible. Scientology has a screening process called a Security Check (sec-check for short), sometimes using an E-Meter as a lie detector, that includes questions designed to ferret out reporters. They learned a long time ago that it's mutually exclusive to give obective or positive reporting about what goes on inside Scientology.
posted by scalefree at 6:52 PM on March 1, 2006


Not possible. Scientology has a screening process called a Security Check (sec-check for short), sometimes using an E-Meter as a lie detector, that includes questions designed to ferret out reporters

It seems like that might be a pretty easy thing to trick, no?
posted by nuclear_soup at 6:57 PM on March 1, 2006


Is that true? How does that work out when you compare world religions and their popularity?

Well it bears out as one superb model of growth. What other religions have been formed since WWII and have as many adherants? I believe the answer is Zero.
posted by chaz at 7:01 PM on March 1, 2006


I failed the Scientology personality test, they asked me to leave and forget I'd ever been there. Then a dude escorted me from the building.

It was awesome.
posted by The Monkey at 7:11 PM on March 1, 2006


Here's one of the main differences between Scientology and other religions:

From an interview with L. Ron Hubbard's son:

"What a lot of people don't realize is that Scientology is black magic that is just spread out over a long time period. To perform black magic generally takes a few hours or, at most, a few weeks. But in Scientology it's stretched out over a lifetime, and so you don't see it. Black magic is the inner core of Scientology --and it is probably the only part of Scientology that really works. Also, you've got to realize that my father did not worship Satan. He thought he was Satan."
posted by MythMaker at 7:12 PM on March 1, 2006


I strongly recommend that everyone read A Piece of Blue Sky. It documents the history and internal behaviour of the cult. It closely examines the infiltration of the IRS, the no-holds-barred destruction of ex-culties, the lies, the moneyflow, and the stunning abuse of members.

Scientology. Is. NOT. Benign.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:45 PM on March 1, 2006


chaz writes "Well it bears out as one superb model of growth. What other religions have been formed since WWII and have as many adherants? I believe the answer is Zero."

Well, first of all, so what? Popularity is not a measure of quality. Even so, the Church of Scientology likes to tout huge membership numbers, over 6 million.

The church's numbers are inflated. Their numbers are more reliably estimated at below 750,000 worldwide, and could be as few as 100,000 and appear to be shrinking. Even so, there's no doubt they've had an impact and are one of the most successful distinct modern religions, but that may be due more to recognition than anything. They may have been more successful at marketing saturation than long-term growth and retention.

Besides, the primary selling point of the major religions is that they are not simply utilitarian; they actually work on a spiritual level, though many adherents never fully realize those levels of being. That happens more to the converts. People whose lives are truly enriched spiritually - not just superficially changed by some bogus pop psychology - are enough to sell a religion to other people. All Scientology has is a charismatic leader (who is dead, which is a plus), marketing and rigid cult behavior with a defensive, media savvy and ultimately vicious and litigious nature built in (seriously, it's in LRH's teachings to his church leadership). It will be difficult to turn this into a spiritually rich tradition, cultivating organic growth, complete with epiphanies and fully realized adherents to evangelize, if it's at all possible. It's not that way now.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:51 PM on March 1, 2006


MythMaker's link is to an interesting interview, and the quote about black magic is tantalizing. Unfortunately, the interview does not really explain what that the connections between Scientology and black magic ARE, in terms that would make sense to someone unfamiliar with Crowley.

Can anyone who knows both of these philosophies/practices elaborate on what the connections might be? Thanks in advance.
posted by O Blitiri at 8:03 PM on March 1, 2006


O Blitiri -

One of the interesting things in Hubbard's biography is his relationship with Jack Parsons, from the Jet Propulsion laboratories. They did black magick together, for awhile, before Hubbard ripped off Parsons (he took both his money and his girl.)

Here's the relevant chapter from A Piece of Blue Sky.

There's also relevant information in Part Two of this article. Just scroll down to "PART TWO: THE SATANIC ELEMENTS OF SCIENTOLOGY."

To quote from the second source:

During the first World war Aleister Crowley had written a novel called the "Butterfly Net" later to be published under the name "Moonchild." This novel tells the story of a magical operation based on the theory that a particular type of spirit can be induced to incarnate in an unborn human embryo by surrounding the mother with the appropriate influences, carrying out certain rituals, etc.

Parsons wished to carry out such an operation designed to achieve in an unborn child, the incarnation of Babalon, an aspect of the great Mother goddess Nuit. He decided that Hubbard would make an ideal co-worker.

In order to obtain a woman prepared to bear this magical child, Parsons and Hubbard engaged themselves for eleven days in rituals. These do not seem to have produced any marked result until January 14, 1946 when, so Parsons said, Hubbard had a candle knocked out of his hand. Parsons went on to record saying that Hubbard called him and, "We observed a brownish yellow light about seven feet high. I brandished a Magical sword and it disappeared. Hubbard's right arm was paralyzed for the rest of the night."

All this work seemed to have its desired result and, on January 18, 1946 Parsons found a girl who was prepared to go through the required incantation rituals and become the mother of Babalon. Parsons was the High Priest and had sexual intercourse with the girl, while Hubbard, who was present, acted as a skryer, seer, or clairvoyant and described what was supposed to be happening on the astral plane.

Hubbard and Parsons were attempting the most reckless magical feat imaginable. They were trying to incarnate the Scarlet Woman described in the Book of Revelation as "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlot and Abominations of the Earth...drunken with the blood of saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus."

posted by MythMaker at 8:38 PM on March 1, 2006


O Blitiri : "Unfortunately, the interview does not really explain what that the connections between Scientology and black magic ARE, in terms that would make sense to someone unfamiliar with Crowley."

What he says does not make much sense to someone familiar with Crowley, too. MoonChild ("He was very interested in several things that were the creation of what some people call the Moon Child. It was basically an attempt to create an immaculate conception --except by Satan rather than by God.") is an occult novel that Crowley wrote mostly to be able to attack some enemies under the protection of fiction. The Book of Law ("He got hold of the book by Alistair Crowley called The Book of Law.") is your good old run of the mill esoteric book, it is quite impossible to summarize and it is not exactly easy to read much less interpret. So, a reader without much reference can interpret it in the most wild ways (Crowley warns, at the end of the Book: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. The study of this Book is forbidden. It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading. Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril. These are most dire. Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt. Love is the law, love under will."). Ron Jr. himself just repeat an old accusation against Crowley ("The Antichrist. Alestair Crowley thought of himself as such"), one I thought hasn't survived so long. Accusations like that are, most of the time, just a Christian way to avoid looking at something quite out of their tradition - Crowley, right, wrong or just self-deluded by his own dreams, was definitely not coming from a Christian perspective. And the Jr. just gives us further proof of how psychotic and dangerous his father was ("And when Crowley died in 1947, my father then decided that he should wear the cloak of the beast and become the most powerful being in the universe."). And finally, Ron Jr confuses what Crowley called Magik with party tricks ("What a lot of people don't realize is that Scientology is black magic that is just spread out over a long time period. To perform black magic generally takes a few hours or, at most, a few weeks. But in Scientology it's stretched out over a lifetime, and so you don't see it."). I am not sure yet of the exact nature of Crowley's work (although his writing on Yoga and Meditation are quite good), but one point he stresses on and on is the need for commitment, the years upon years of concentration and study necessary to understand whatever it is he was trying to understand. All in all it is a very confusing link, specially because Scientology is mostly a science-fiction novel turned religion. The mantle of technology involved may involve elements from the magical tradition, but I think those was quite distorted in the transition.
posted by nkyad at 8:43 PM on March 1, 2006


On preview, MythMaker, that a jolly funny link - classical Christian-hysterical interpretation of Crowley, along with classical naming mistakes (it is not "Liberal Vel Legis" but "Liber al vel Legis") and fantasy links between different mythologies ("Aiwass was the messenger of Hoor-Paar-Kraat, that is to say Set, the destroyer god, the brother and murderer of Osiris. Set was also called Sheraton, and Sheraton is the prototype of the Christian Satan"). Sometimes you don't know who has more imagination, the "Satanists" or the interpreters.

Anyway, anyone interested in a more neutral accounting may start at the Wikipedia page for Aleister Crowley. Most relevant links to books and references are there.
posted by nkyad at 9:03 PM on March 1, 2006


krinklyfig wrote:

[h]as is a charismatic leader (who is dead, which is a plus), marketing and rigid cult behavior with a defensive, media savvy and ultimately vicious and litigious nature built in . . .

Sounds like the 21st Century GOP to me. . . .
posted by rdone at 9:23 PM on March 1, 2006


I suspect the Crowley influence was in part reflected in Scientiology's use of what my friend Eric of Freespeeches.net called today "weaponized memes" -- particularly all the totally cool jargon, which concretizes community while brilliantly shoving off-stage anything that challenges the collective reality. Language is a virus, as W.S. Burroughs said, Crowley knew that too, and Hubbard was a brilliant phonemic mind-hacker.

Or I'm an out-ethics declared squirrel spreading entheta and enturbulation.
posted by digaman at 10:41 PM on March 1, 2006


In fact, the jargon that Hubbard designed for Scientology is one of the greatest science-fiction works of the 20th century. If he had presented it as the lingo of a fictional alien society with the same campy plot about Xenu being the planetary religion, LRH would be considered up there with Frank Herbert of "Dune."
posted by digaman at 10:48 PM on March 1, 2006


The GOP had ol' Sonny Bono on their team, didn't they? Scientology guy, him.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:56 PM on March 1, 2006


nykad-

Well, Crowley did consider himself 666, the Beast of the Apocalypse. :)

I have mixed feelings about Aleister Crowley. He's certainly very important to to contemporary esoteric/magickal revival, and was cribbed very heavily in the early development of Wicca, etc. - but his morality seems awfully questionable to me. I personally believe in compassion.

"Crowley’s morality ... is a throwback to a time when compassion was considered a weakness, a vice for women and old men."

Here's another reference to the Crowlean influences in Scientology.
posted by MythMaker at 12:14 AM on March 2, 2006


I failed the Scientology personality test, they asked me to leave and forget I'd ever been there. Then a dude escorted me from the building.

I'm scanning for irony in this statement and coming up inconclusive, so I'll ask flat-out: Is this a joke? If not, I find it hard to believe. No-one fails the personality test. Regardless of how you answer, you will be found to be in dire need of Scientology's 'tech'.

It. Is. A. Scam. Simply by agreeing to take the test you are demonstrating you are suggestible enough to be an ideal victim.
posted by Ritchie at 12:17 AM on March 2, 2006


Hubbard was in a Thelemic group in Texas with Jack Parsons back before the $cientology. He and Parsons went off the farm, and were apparently actually attempting to produce a Moonchild (the inspiration for Rosemary's Baby), which really pissed Crowley off. Hubbard wound up ripping Parsons off for $30,000 or something, and taking off with the would-be Moonchild's mom, Marjorie Cameron the actress.

Another interesting source Hubbard used is Alfred Korzybski, the inventor of E-prime and general semantics. Korzybski's NLP-style language tricks are used to manipulate people in the $cience.

Sometime, notice what popular shows have Scientologists. King of Queens, Malcom in the Middle, that 70s Show, Simpsons, off the top of my head. It seems they try to get someone in every popular show these days.
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:37 AM on March 2, 2006


Who's the Scientologist in The Simpsons?
posted by OmieWise at 7:12 AM on March 2, 2006


The voice of Bart.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:12 AM on March 2, 2006


So the voice of Bart has power over Matter, Energy, Space, and Time (MEST).

D'oh!
posted by digaman at 8:33 AM on March 2, 2006


So the voice of Bart has power over Matter, Energy, Space, and Time

Duh. Didn't you see the one where he turns his dad into a Homer-in-the-box?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:48 AM on March 2, 2006


Quite a twist, huh? Betcha didn't see that one coming.
posted by Gator at 9:08 AM on March 2, 2006


“Just because other religions have done bad things does not mean that Scientology is in any way defensible or not a criminal gang... Their actions are exactly as reprehensible as they are, completely irrespective of any other group... ” -
ROU_Xenophobe

I think several things are at issue one is the argument that they are just as legitimate as any other religion despite their abuses.
The other is that those abuses exist. In addition that scientology is bad in ways other religions aren’t.

On the first issue - what’s the alternative? Either the Feds start getting into deciding what a “legitimate” religion is or we keep that right.
Insofar as cults go - those are busted on kidnapping charges, etc.
If the scientologists did that, the Feds would be on them like they are with any other group. If they are doing it - they should be busted.
And any other illegalities should be stopped as well.

But let’s not start a pissing contest over benignity = legitimacy when priests are fucking little boys in the ass and there are organizational coverups. Please.

So the reverse is true - just because Scientologists have done bad or criminal things does not mean the church itself is a criminal gang.
(On the other hand the Feds did threaten the Catholic church with RICO laws, so who’s to say?)
But to echo - ROU_Xenophobe - their actions are indeed as reprehensible as they are, completely irrespective of any other group’s works. I consider them no different than any other group calling itself a “religion” whatever form their ideology takes.

“I suspect the Crowley influence was in part reflected in Scientiology's use of what my friend Eric of Freespeeches.net called today "weaponized memes"” - digaman

Nearly dead on. Wow. I’ve studied lots of Crowley. He liked...jokes.
And you need someone to plumb the Id a bit now and then. Not that that’s a ‘good’ thing. Social dynamics sometimes need an asshole/trickster to get things moving. Jung did some good work in that direction, but...
posted by Smedleyman at 9:22 AM on March 2, 2006


just because Scientologists have done bad or criminal things does not mean the church itself is a criminal gang

Oh for fuck's fucking sake!

READ THE GODDAMN BOOK.

The "church" of Scientology is EXACTLY a criminal gang. GO READ THE BOOK.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 AM on March 2, 2006


Just because some religions have done bad things, doesn't pardon the current bad things being done in the name of Scientology.

Just because Tom and Dick got away with beating their wives, doesn't pardon Harry from beating is now.

You can't change the past, but you can do something about the present to change the future.
posted by FunkyHelix at 12:44 PM on March 2, 2006


suspect the Crowley influence was in part reflected in Scientiology's use of what my friend Eric of Freespeeches.net called today "weaponized memes" -- particularly all the totally cool jargon, which concretizes community while brilliantly shoving off-stage anything that challenges the collective reality. Language is a virus, as W.S. Burroughs said, Crowley knew that too, and Hubbard was a brilliant phonemic mind-hacker. posted by digaman

Precisely. One of the reasons I became interested in studying memetics was by watching the Clearwater crew when I was younger. The first time I read Burroughs on language as a virus, it was like a light turning on. They are geniuses as using the language. Genius. Spooky as all fuck...but there are some brilliant neural programmers working for them.

As to the Crowley "black magic" connection... Smedleyman nailed the Loki aspect of Crowley. I think a lot of people miss that aspect of what he was writing. Some of those people may very well have been Hubbard and Parsons and crew, I don't know enough about them to make that call.

As to the question of whether or not scientology is a religion...I'd certainly grant it "Cult", primarily because of how they deal with people who leave (or try to leave). I know that I'm not afraid the Catholics will be able to get a search warrant, break into my house and do terrible things to me if I critizice them...but I sure as hell wouldn't publish Scientology documents without expecting it to get ugly.
posted by dejah420 at 1:36 PM on March 2, 2006


For those who have done quite a bit of reading on Scientology, a fascinating critique of the auditing process.
posted by digaman at 3:06 PM on March 2, 2006


Richie, I guess that was the abridged version.

I did the test and was found to have a whole lot of issues they'd love to help me out with and make me a happy whole person.

I guess the part I failed was the verbal part, where they started trying to infect me with a mind virus, but it quickly became apparent that I'd been innoculated.

Then they kicked me out.

But it's funnier to just say I failed the test.
posted by The Monkey at 3:33 PM on March 2, 2006


Wow, digaman, that auditing article you linked to was very interesting. Thanks.

Also, I've never read Rolling Stone, but this is their third article I've seen linked here and all of them have been excellent. One was in this thread and I can't remember what the other one was. Do they consistently have good non-music articles or have I just been lucky to read the good ones?
posted by Penks at 8:56 PM on March 2, 2006


Yeah, The Monkey, I also failed one of their tests. Of course, that's because I kept ratcheting up my fake hysteria and yelling that the Clam-Men wanted to take our minds, but still I was escorted out.

Freaked a lot of the other people there out, too. My friends laughed until they cried. Good times.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:06 AM on March 3, 2006


Actually, like I wrote above I don't like the CoS and think they're terrible, but the religious critics are sitting from a hypocrtical position of enjoying the questionable actions of their own founders and early period.

That statement makes the assumption that the critics are of any particular religion. They may not be. As an athiest, I find scientology to be the nastiest religions popular in America.
posted by delmoi at 9:48 AM on March 6, 2006


did you know that aum shirishiko is still practiced in Japan? It's entirely possible to be both a criminal gang and a religion.
posted by delmoi at 10:11 AM on March 6, 2006


« Older An act of civil obedience....  |  Jeb Bush Asked to Explain Crui... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments